As work on patient facing digital tools and services gathers pace and a new roadmap is published, NHS England’s Chief Digital Officer examines achievements so far and plans for the future:
Information and technology offers us a chance to not only meet the increased demand set out in the Five Year Forward View, but provide our patients with higher quality care and services which are quicker and more convenient to access.
The patient-facing parts of the £4.7 billion health and care system digital transformation, which I lead and which will make this a reality, are many, varied and complex. Combined, they will empower people to take control of their health and care through secure online access to clinicians, personalised health information, and digital tools and advice.
We’ve already made great progress. Free wi-fi is now available in GP practices across the country, 11.3 million patients are registered for online services and NHS Choices contains improved medicines information and now works better on mobile than ever before.
We’ve drafted guidance to help commissioners and designers ensure digital services and products are inclusive and accessible, and launched pilots which will inform our development of an NHS app that provides patients with a single point of access to local and national digital health services.
Our continued success is founded on the recognition that we cannot achieve this alone, or by working from a purely national perspective.
We’re engaging developers inside and outside of the health and care system; letting them know that the digital NHS is open for business to encourage innovation that will raise the bar on the standard of digital health and care tools and services for patients.
And we’re also working closely with CIOs and CCIOs locally to support them in commissioning, developing and implementing the very best digital services for their unique populations.
We’ve held a vital workshop with these digital leaders to explore how we should best collaborate going forwards, to ensure we continue to learn from their local expertise and experiences when shaping our digital products and services.
The event also gave us the opportunity to respond to calls for greater clarity on our plans by sharing our new roadmap which sets out our national objectives and timelines, so that colleagues know what we’re doing, why, and when, and can plan accordingly.
In the spring we plan to publish guidance to help local organisations ensure that systems they develop or commission, to bring together patients’ information in one place and known as a Personal Health Record, are as high quality and connectable as possible.
Alongside this we will release an early version of an NHS digital services manual drawing together new and existing design and development tools guidance, and begin initial testing of a single system for verifying the identity of those requesting access to digital health records and services.
We’re also building an open and connectable platform that will make it easy for innovative developers to plug their technology in to our single, joined up NHS app, and start making a difference to patients. The app will be live by the end of the year.
It’s clear that our programmes are already having an impact on patients, helping them conveniently access the NHS and discover the very best advice and support so that they can care for themselves too.
Our role is to help these developments go further, faster so that we constantly improve the care and experience we offer patients.
As is always the way in good technology development, we will work in an agile way, testing with and listening to users, collaborating with those in and outside of the NHS, reviewing, revising and adjusting as we go.
As our work progresses, the patient experience will become more personalised, with advice, support and care uniquely tailored to each person. Services will appear more joined up, and patients will not just understand how to navigate between them, but will be smoothly guided through one clear relationship with the NHS to get to the care they need.
I’m confident we have the right approach and, with the release of our roadmap, we certainly have a clear plan. Now let’s make it happen.